Unique Lady Gregory Portrait Joins ‘Yeats & The West’ Collection

Portrait of Lady Augusta Gregory painted by the artist Gerald Festus Kelly in 1912. Photo: Aengus McMahon
Dec 10 2015 Posted: 12:45 GMT

NUI Galway ‘Yeats & The West’ Exhibition continues with the addition of a recently acquired portrait of Lady Gregory in 1912

William Butler Yeats, poet, playwright, politician, and Nobel prize-winner for literature, always looked west. Through rare books, art, music, drama, and film, the Yeats & the West exhibition at NUI Galway discovers what the west meant to him, and what this might mean for us.

As part of this exhibition of original materials that are unique to the West of Ireland, NUI Galway has added a recently acquired portrait of Lady Gregory painted by the artist Gerald Festus Kelly in 1912. Lady Augusta Gregory was 60 at the time this portrait was painted for The Abbey Theatre, and established in her career as folklorist, translator, and playwright. She is depicted wearing mourning clothes for her late husband Sir William Gregory, not entirely in keeping with her energetic personality. The portrait is currently located in the Reading Room of the James Hardiman Research Building as part of the Yeats & The West collection.

Celebrating Yeats2015 the Yeats & the West programme continues with an exclusive tour of the exhibition by the curators and events include a talk about ‘Yeats and the act of dying’ by Professor Kevin Barry from the Moore Institute at NUI Galway, and a Yeats & the West closing event next January featuring talks and readings by scholars, artists, and writers.

Dr Adrian Paterson, lecturer in English and curator of the exhibition at NUI Galway, said: “I think people forget that Yeats was not just a poet, he was a cultural revolutionary. To put it differently you might say he was a collaborator, an entrepreneur, an artist and a man who made things happen. The west was the landscape of Yeats’s poetry. It was also a wellspring of songs, stories, folklore, artwork, drama and crafts. The exhibition takes a close look at his poetry. But it also highlights his collaborations, and the songs and plays and artwork and politics of those around him that shaped modern Ireland. It’s a western revolution.”

Highlights of the Yeats & the West exhibition include watercolours from a 1900 Galway sketchbook by Jack B. Yeats, never-before seen paintings by Jack Yeats and Gerard Dillon, a wealth of visual material from artists and photographers from Fergus Bourke to Nicolas Fève, film footage and touchscreens, and rarely seen images, manuscripts, and books from archive collections in NUI Galway. Archive treasures include the Lady Gregory Collection, the Abbey Digital Archive, and the Lyric Theatre Belfast.

Yeats & the West also highlights the gifted artists of Yeats’s own family, in original handprinted books from the Cuala Press and images of the Dun Emer embroideries from Loughrea’s St. Brendan’s Cathedral. A complete collection of the Cuala Press broadsides designed by Jack B. Yeats will also be on show.

“Cuala Industries was essentially a feminist collective”, said Dr Paterson. “It was nationalist, too, but not in a narrow way, and they turned their hands to everything. The Broadsides feature original designs by Jack Yeats and other artists such as Harry Kernoff that are then coloured by hand. The later editions represent the only major collaboration between the two Yeats brothers.”

The exhibition also features material from the Arthur Shields Collection, a spectacular resource of letters, photographs, and first editions. Arthur Shields was an actor at the Abbey Theatre involved in the Easter Rising of 1916, who acted in Yeats and O’Casey’s revolutionary plays, took the Abbey on tours to America, and then appeared in Hollywood films, making for a remarkable story.

Yeats & the West tells a story of going west to find those places, real and imaginative, that change our sense of where and who we are. The exhibition runs until the end of January 2016 in the Hardiman Research Building at NUI Galway.

The Yeats & the West programme is supported by the Moore Institute and James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, Galway City Museum, the National Library of Ireland, Loughrea Cathedral, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society and Yeats2015.

‘The throats of birds: W.B. Yeats and the act of dying’ talk with Professor Kevin Barry will take place on Tuesday, 15 December at 5pm in Room G011 in the Hardiman Research Building at NUI Galway. The talk is free and open to the public.

The Yeats & The West exhibition is open daily from 9am-5pm in the Hardiman Research Building at NUI Galway. Visit: yeatsandthewest.org


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